The once seedy neighbourhood of Getsemaní in Cartagena is now an artists palette of colours. Prostitutes, gangs and drugs have been replaced with trendy bars, boutique hostels and live music on the streets. Unlike the old walled city which is filled with tourists and touristy shops, Getsemaní draws both tourists and locals.
If you take a walk in the evening, you’ll see locals sitting out on chairs in front of their homes, enjoying the cool evening air. Some will sit outside and place their TVs in the windows, effectively watching TV from the street! Life moves out onto the calles in Getsemaní and that’s where you want to be too. Whether it’s watching break dancing in the main square or buying mangos from a street vendor (12 mangos for 30p anybody?), you’ll never get bored. Regardless of all the tourists – real life actually takes place here.
One of the things I loved best about Getsemaní was just how colourful it is. In contrast to the main walled city with its grandeur and elegance, Getsemaní is a tumble of painted houses, shocking colours and sweet scented flowers – all overgrown and charmingly endearing. One day we walked past a young man drawing with a pencil on a blank wall, the next day we walked past the same piece of wall and it was filled with colour and had been turned into a story! You can see the mural in the first photo in this post, at the top, which features local artists playing instruments (including an accordion).
Where to Eat:
Good food is easy to come by in this neighbourhood, and it’s much cheaper than anywhere in the main walled town (which is all aimed at tourists). There are a host of delightful little family run places which do the typical corriente style menus (a meat broth to start followed by either fish or meat with rice, beans and plantain) for very reasonable prices – roughly $COP 7000 which is about £1.80 – not too bad hmm! They all serve the best fruit juices and shakes known to mankind. I would personally recommend mango, passion fruit (maracuya) or custard apple (guanabana) with milk – heaven in a glass.
If you’re looking for something a little more special than a corriente – I cannot stress enough how incredible the food at La Cocina de Pepina is. If any place deserves a Michelin star it is this place, not the poncy restaurants of Britain with their foam and mousse nonsense. The prices are pretty high (for Cartagena) but it’s totally worth it. Make sure to order the stuffed peppers to start and either the Caribbean coconut and seafood soup for a main or the beef. Better yet, take all your friends, you can order everything on the short menu and then stick your fork into everyone’s plate!
We REALLY wanted to check out Saint Roque Restaurant as well – a small family run Indonesian place owned by a Dutch guy but it was sadly shut the whole time we were there. It has wonderful reviews online though and having lived in Holland for a number of years, I know that the Dutch know their Indonesian food so go check it out and let me know just how good it is!
Where to Sleep:
Because it has changed name and owners over the years, it’s suffered from some very bad Trip Advisor reviews, but there is no place in Getsemani as pretty as the disappointingly named Friends to BE. We were actually staying next door at the hostal de Carmen but switched over after seeing the stunning indoor courtyard and beautiful timber beams in this old converted home. Most places in this neighbourhood are pretty though and much better priced than the main walled city.
Getsemani isn’t just the most colourful part of Cartagena, filled with street art, it also has more life, tastier food and the cutest little side streets. There’s nothing I enjoyed more in Cartagena than wandering around Getsemani in the evenings and soaking up the vibe. Make sure to visit, I promise you won’t be disappointed!